Industry reacts cautiously to DEFRA's ministerial line-up

Two junior ministers join department as senior representative is axed

Lord Bach will have responsibility for horticulture in the new DEFRA ministerial line-up. New junior ministers Lord Bach and Jim Knight (HW, 12 May), join junior minister Ben Bradshaw, minister of state Elliot Morley and secretary of state Margaret Beckett at the ministry. Lord Bach will represent plant health, plant varieties and seeds, departmental science, pesticides and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He will be at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next week. The NFU and HTA were reluctant to criticise the appointments because it might compromise their lobbying positions. The NFU recognised that Beckett is unlikely to have a direct role in horticulture. A DEFRA representative said the ministry had one senior minister rather than two because the fox-hunting bill had gone through and it is unlikely there will be bills as controversial as that one this term. An NFU representative said: “The NFU has enjoyed a sound working relationship with Margaret Beckett since her appointment as secretary of state. We will continue to work with her on the important domestic reforms that face the industry.” The reforms include biofuel, fair competition in the food chain, reform of the sugar regime and the regulation of European rural development. DEFRA said Beckett will continue her role as before and will chair the EU agriculture and environment councils during the UK presidency. Public affairs consultant Mark Glover said the cross-department Regulatory Reform Bill, announced this week, would be the most important for horticulture, as it could reduce red tape and increase business efficiency.

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